Fiery train crashes start RR campaign

Published:

WASHINGTON -- A string of fiery train derailments across the country has triggered a high-stakes but behind-the-scenes campaign to shape how the government responds to calls for tighter safety rules.

Billions of dollars are riding on how these rules are written, and lobbyists from the railroads, tank car manufacturers and the oil, ethanol and chemical industries have met 13 times since March with officials at the White House and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Their universal message: Don't make us pay for increased safety because that's another industry's problem.

The pitches illustrate why government officials, who must show that safety benefits outweigh the economic costs of rules, often struggle for years, only to produce watered-down regulations.

The Association of American Railroads, for example, is pushing for tougher safety standards for tank cars than the current, voluntary standards agreed to by industry in 2011. Railroads, though, typically don't own or lease tank cars and so wouldn't have to buy new cars or retrofit existing ones. The oil and ethanol industries that own the cars want to stick with the voluntary standards.

NASA launches capsule: A commercial cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Sunday, carrying food, science samples and new odor-resistant gym clothes for the resident crew. Orbital Sciences Corp. launched its Cygnus capsule from the Virginia coast, its third space station delivery for NASA. "It's like Christmas in July," said Frank Culbertson, an executive vice president at Orbital Sciences and former astronaut.

Water shutoffs: Detroit's water system cited 79 customers for illegal water use in one recent three-day period and levied $21,750 in fees, a spokesman said. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been cracking down on tens of thousands of nonpaying residential and business customers. Its collection effort for July 1-3 illustrates one of the challenges that the agency faces, department spokesman Greg Eno told the Detroit Free Press. Overall, the department has said it is trying to collect about $90 million from about 90,000 delinquent accounts.

Evacuated: A mysterious odor has prompted the evacuation of about 100 homes in Skippack Township, Pa. A fire chief told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia that crews haven't pinpointed the cause of the odor, but they've gotten high readings of hydrogen cyanide in about 100 homes. Chief Haydn Marriott told the TV station they don't actually think the odor is hydrogen cyanide, but some other chemical. Reports of the noxious smell started coming in at about 7 p.m. Sunday.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.